The Object Lesson - Superheroes and Masks
An essential piece of every superheroes costume is their mask. From Ironman to Batman, the mask helps protect their secret identity. Heroes don’t want people to know who they are underneath the mask. In fact, one of the central plotline of recent Spiderman movies has been built around the question of who should be allowed to know that Peter Parker is Spiderman. Keeping his real identity a secret is supposed to help keep everyone safe.
I find that many of us have adopted a superhero lifestyle. We can’t fly or lift heavy cars, but we love to wear masks. We wear masks each day to show the world we are strong, happy, in control, and confident. In reality, many of us are actually insecure, depressed, anxious, and ashamed, but like Bruce Wayne, we don’t want the world to know who we are underneath the mask. We are afraid if someone really got to know us, they may not like us. So we wear our masks and try to protect ourselves.
There are two ways to illustrate this point. First, you can simply bring a costume mask to use as an object lesson. This works best if you are presenting from a stage in front of a large group. Explain the purpose of heroes wearing masks and how they are trying to hide their true identity. Connect this concept to our tendency to hide our true hearts by wearing our own “masks.” Finally, encourage the audience to take of their masks and be honest with God. Remind them that he already knows what is underneath, and he loves them anyway.
A second really powerful way to use this concept in a small group setting or with students is to have them make their own masks. Give each student a paper plate with a smiley face on the bottom side and a heart drawn on the inside of the plate. Ask participants to write down the “masks” they show people on the smiley face side (i.e. I try to be happy, I pretend to be confident, I act like I’m a good person). On the heart side, have them write down who they really are on the inside (i.e. I’m ashamed, I’m afraid, I’m insecure). Remind them that God knows both parts, and he loves them in spite of what is on the inside. Invite them to lay down the mask and experience the love of God.
The Bible Connection – A God Who Loves You Anyway
Wearing a mask with people makes a little bit of sense. You might be able to fool them for a while, especially if you don’t really get to know them. But it makes no sense to wear a mask with God. We know that God looks at our hearts. He knows our fears. He sees our shame. He is aware of our weakness. AND HE LOVES US ANYWAY.
John 4 and John 7
Think of Jesus with the woman at the well in John 4 or with the adulteress woman in John 7. Jesus shows them both incredible mercy and compassion. He doesn’t do this because they are good people or because they are worthy. He doesn’t love them because he is confused about who they are. He knows exactly who these women are. He knows all about their sin. AND HE LOVES THEM ANYWAY.
One of the great verses in the Bible is found in Romans 5:8: “But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.” God knew we were sinners. He knew about the sexual sin. He knew about our lies, gossip, and arrogance. He knew we weren’t good people. Our mask didn’t fool him. Despite knowing the depth of our sin, God chose to send his son to die for us anyway. He knows who we really are, and he loves us anyway.
Other Scriptures to Use
This is a message about God’s deep love. It fits nicely with so many of the teachings of Jesus and grace including the ones below.
The younger son was sure he had messed up so badly his father could never forgive him. He comes home prepared to confess his sins and become a servant to his father. He could never have expected the overwhelming love that covered his mistakes. God loves us, even when we’ve been in the pig pen.
Paul had made every wrong choice. He had hunted down Christians and opposed Jesus at every turn. When he finally comes face to face with Jesus, we might expect Paul to receive judgment and punishment, but he doesn’t. Instead, he finds forgiveness and new purpose. Jesus knew who Paul was, and loved him anyway.
This beautiful passage describes our inability to ever be good enough to live up to God’s standards and God’s incredible grace in spite of our sin.